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Monday, July 24, 2023

Appellate Court Upholds $1.7 Million in Fines for Violations of Municipal Codes

An Illinois Appellate Court recently upheld a municipality's imposition of fines against property owners for certain ordinance violations relating to six accessory structures on the owners' property, including a tree house, shed, dog house/chicken coop, gazebo, detached garage, and covered patio. The municipality brought an ordinance enforcement action against he owners for failure to obtain permits for the structures, violations of building and electrical codes, setback encroachments, height violations, and the illegal keeping of chickens on the property. The trial court found in favor of the municipality and imposed fines of $100/day the violations had continued on the property ($100 was the minimum fine in the municipal code) for 20 continuing code violations on the property in the total amount of $1,766,000. 

The owners appealed, claiming the fines were excessive in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and that the evidence presented by the municipality was insufficient to support the fines. On appeal, the Appellate Court rejected the owners' excessive fines claim. The Court acknowledged that the fine was large but noted that it was calculated based on 20 separate code violations which remained unabated for a lengthy period of time (from 2018 to 2021). Second, the Court determined that the evidence presented before the multiple hearings conducted by the trial court sufficiently demonstrated the owners' continuing violations of municipal codes up to November 4, 2021, although the Court did reduce the fine for the period of November 4, 2021 to December 30, 2021. In sum, the Appellate Court upheld the $1,766,000 fine that was imposed by the trial court, but reduced the fine by $5,600. City of South Beloit v. Casique, et al.


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